Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu is an ascending, young football prospect, and considering the way his stock is trending, perhaps someday he’ll be on par with the Packers’ Clay Matthews.
It only makes sense that Matthews is one of the NFL’s premiere pass rushers that Attaochu looks to as an example of how to succeed.
“I watch some of those pass rushers who kind of fit my mold, body type and athletic ability,” said Attaochu at the NFL Combine. “I watch Clay Matthews and Von Miller; I watch Terrell Suggs. He’s more mature as a pass rusher, and he uses his power very well.”
As someone that has made double-digit tackles for a loss in each of the past three seasons, Attaochu is being looked at as a player who can get into an opponents' backfield and create havoc, which is precisely what he did at the college level.
In four seasons at Georgia Tech, Attaochu made 43.5 tackles for a loss and 31.5 sacks, the first three years of which came in defensive coordinator Al Groh's 3-4 system, playing as a stand-up outside linebacker.
When the Yellow Jackets fired Groh and hired new defensive coordinator Ted Roof in 2013, Attochu switched to defensive end in a 4-3. The experience has exposed Attaochu to variety of defensive systems and adds to his versatility, but he feels his comfort zone is still in a two-point stance.
"Standing up as a 3-4 rush linebacker, definitely," said Attochu.
NFLDraftScout.com has Attaochu as the fifth-ranked outside linebacker in this year's Draft class and the 47th ranked overall player.
Such a ranking makes Attaochu difficult to project as being selected by the Packers, who own the 21st and 53rd overall selections, maybe a few slots too high to select the Georgia Tech product in the first round and too low to still be available at the end of the second round.
However, should Attaochu fall farther than expected or the Packers pull off a trade, maybe they'll consider bolstering their pass rush, which head coach Mike McCarthy described—along with cornerbacks—as a source of constant emphasis at last month's NFL Owners Meeting.
"Corners and pass rushers," said McCarthy. "I don’t think I’ve ever been in a personnel meeting where as my responsibility as head coach when you talk about defense to talk about the importance of corners and pass rushers."
Attaochu was born and raised in Nigeria until moving to the USA with his family in the nineties. He first started playing football as a freshman in high school.
While at the Senior Bowl in January, Attaochu suffered a hamstring injury that prevented him from participating in the NFL Combine, although he did take part in Georgia Tech's pro day in late March.
The Packers were one of all 32 teams represented at the workout, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, where Attaochu ran as fast as 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash and participated in every other drill except the bench press.
Asked where he envisions himself in his pro career, Attaochu replied, "Being a Pro Bowl player. I think that’s the type of player that I am. That’s the type I’ve been in college.
"I’ve been great for my team and for my school. I’d like to take my game to the next level. I know there are things that I can work on. There are still things in my game that I have to get better at for the NFL and I’m ready to do that."
If Attaochu accomplishes such goals, perhaps there will be more comparisons to Matthews in his future.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email email@example.com.
Photo: Georgia Tech linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu by Brian Carriveau.
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